Désolé que j’écris ceci en anglais. Je suis occupé avec ma fille les soirées donc ma priorité est de communiqué ce blog la meilleur façon que je peut dans le temps que j’ai actuellement.
I am not sure what to make of last Saturday’s forum « RETROUVAILLES SAINTE-MARIE 2009 ». There were both some positive and disappointing aspects. I certainly do not want to criticize such excellent efforts so with the chance that the organizers might google themselves (bonjour!), I thought I would provide some constructive feedback and outline what could be improved next year and also on a positive note, what worked really well.
I do have to admit that the bar was set very high as this seemed to be a similar set-up to the Forum Centre-Sud that was held earlier this year for both the St-Jacques and Sainte-Marie neighbourhoods. That day was extremely well organized and it ended with a clear recap of the day’s main 3 ideas that came out of each workshop. I remember biking on my way home filled with motivation and energy which was unfortunate for my wife because she just got this excited pseudo-teenager when I arrived overly eager to tell her the entire details. Plus I ended doing three blogs just to describe the day’s activities and results. Unfortunately, I just didn’t feel the same this time around and I was left a little tired and unsure of what we accomplished after the workshops.
So what needs improvement?
The introduction was good but it did not properly spell out the plan of the day and how everything would work. Gilles Duceppe was invited quickly to speak but I think this would have been more pertinent after he would have listened to the residents throughout part of the day before speaking. All, in all, I think a better explanation of the day’s agenda, how many workshops you could attend (I wanted to assist to all 3 but realized quickly that I could only attend 2 of them) and the fact that lunch would be served (and where) would have been appropriate. As a quick aside, how come our federal representative, Gilles Duceppe, has time to attend but at the municipal level our new borough mayor Gerald Tremblay, was a no-show?
The workshops were too long (1 hour and 45 minutes each) and as I mentioned above, it did not allow for residents to attend all 3 in question. At the last minute that morning, it was mentioned that we could visit the school premises as they wanted to showcase the quality of the Pierre-Dupuy high school but the guided tours were being held during the workshops. I think one was available during the lunch hour but one has got to eat. Next year, I simply hope that the workshops will be 45-60 minutes in length and allow for 4 time options so that all workshops can be attended and meanwhile it would be great if the school tours would be incorporated into these times as part of the options.
The Pole Frontenac workshop was the most disappointing part of my day. The goal here was to brainstorm with the public on how the nearby area surrounding Frontenac Metro could be revitalized. Big ideas were shared including the creation of a plaza where the current empty lot & parking lot at the mini-shopping centre. This is not a bad idea in of itself but the problem I had was that we were dreaming up big plans that depend a great deal on what the owner of that shopping centre/parking lot/empty lot (apparently the same person) would want to do. Plus the urban revitalization initiative in Sainte-Marie has existed since 2003 now and yet some of the simplest ideas possible have still not been implemented. Some of you might have seen my post a while back where I shared that there are no trees on Ontario St. between Florian and Iberville. Anyhow, it’s ok to have a grand vision, but smaller elements that make up the whole needs to be part of these plans. Maybe the vibe of this workshop was just not for me. Ultimately, for a forum like this, I would have loved to have had more input on doing the simple and less expensive initiatives that can be done within a year or two instead of discussing a bigger plan that will need a study in a year in order to do a more thorough analysis which will be assessed in 3 or 4 years, then be completely changed based on recommendations, and brought back to a public hearing for review… I am not even sure if I am exaggerating. Let’s please start with some easy wins and some affordable options that will beautify the street which will in turn entice more shops to open for business.
Finally, the closing speech was simply lacking that 360-degree punch that a forum like this should deliver: « We met here today for these reasons and here are our accomplishments. » The Forum Centre-Sud had reps from each workshop outline on a powerpoint the 3 best ideas that came about through this process. Whereas, this time, the feedback came all from one person’s observations. Since the attendance was about half of what it was in the morning, I don’t think I am alone to think that the momentum died down as the day went on. In the end, keeping to the same closing format as the Forum Centre-Sud, with 3 highlighted ideas from each workshop, would have been a good way to show how the residents were making a difference in this process.
I really do hope the above info comes across as constructive criticism on how next year could be improved and I will be the first to admit this is from my subjective viewpoint as one resident among the many.
What worked really well?
First of all, I am extremely grateful this forum was put together. It is an amazing initiative to get residents together, to get to know each other and to work together for positive change. It’s a must and I do hope it continues on an annual basis.
The kiosks were excellent. In hindsight, this is actually something I realised that the Forum Centre-Sud lacked as I remember introducing myself to people I didn’t know while they were talking in groups in order to try finding info about the different local organizations: « You have to speak to so & so, she was over there a minute ago… » The Retrouvailles Sainte-Marie event on the other hand, had a kiosk to represent many local not-for-profit organizations. This is exactly what I’ve been looking for in this neighbourhood and partly what motivates this blog because I’ve always felt there was nothing really binding these local groups together. I’ve been told that the Centre-Sud area has more non-profits than other neighbourhoods, so for the first time, I was able to see them together and ready to present themselves and their services.
The promotion was absolutely top quality. Everyone received flyers well over a week in advance and there were posters, literally everywhere! The website presentation could have been improved (google Retrouvailles Sainte-Marie and my blog is the first thing to come up…) but all in all this was very well done. The one thing I can’t explain is that it seems that the residents attending were a minority compared to the city and not-for-profit employees who were there as conference attendees. This definitely has nothing to do with the promotion work but questions should be asked on how to this can be improved next year.
The school’s involvement was the most motivating part of my day. I saw some really proud students singing in the choir at lunch time and a school that was really inviting as they wanted to showcase themselves. The students even had a kiosk where they sold organic treats for a trip fundraiser. It was their sheer pride in what they were selling that made me buy something. It’s definitely a really nice school and one that I would be proud to send my daughter to one day.
All in all, I have to be honest and say I was a little less than satisfied. There is some work that needs to be done to better organize the day and outline things clearly to the attendees. I remember when I got there, I asked if I could attend all 3 workshops and I was trying to ask the time of each one and I was told that they weren’t sure since the organizer hadn’t arrived yet. So it seems like the itinerary might have been created a little too late which caused some communication breakdowns and subsequently affected the day since things were not outlined as well as they should have been. Anyhow, I am hoping next year will be better and I will definitely be there to participate again.